Multi-channel communication means making the most of every opportunity you have to communicate the gospel message.
Unfortunately this is not something most church communicators want to hear. In this time of ever-changing options for communicating in our churches, it is easy to be overwhelmed and we naturally want to simplify our communication workload. This desire is expressed by the question, “What is the best way to communicate with people today? Is it the web, email, or podcasting? Do we still need to do print? What works best to reach the most people?
When overwhelmed with channel choices, it is natural to want to narrow it down to one or two that will be effective.
I always feel bad as I answer because I know people want me to give them a simple answer and to tell them that one channel, especially if it is the one they prefer, is all they need, but I can’t do that. I can’t do that because to be effective in your church communication ministry, to fully fulfill the Great Commission, there is no one way.
Today to be an effective church communicator, you have to use every channel available to you.
It is the time of both/and, not either /or
No one channel will work because people aren’t any more alike in their communication preferences than they are in other areas of likes and dislikes. Some folks love to go online; others don’t have a computer. Some love words; others prefer images and videos. Some love to listen to podcasts; others don’t have any idea what a podcast is. Some text continuously on their mobile phones; some won’t read anything that isn’t on paper.
It’s challenging because all of folks just mentioned go to your church. We can’t simply pick out one way to communicate because the Lord has put us into a body of wonderfully diverse people and it is our responsibility to create communications that are useful for all of them.
To make this situation manageable for practical application in church communications, I’ve divided the many communication channels into three overall groups. It is much more difficult to communicate in all three channels, but I trust this section will encourage you and give you some strategic ideas how to be more effective as you work.
The three channels of effective church communication
Channel #1: Print
This channel consists of printed bulletins, newsletters, postcards, invitation cards, connection cards, instruction materials, printed matter of all kinds, sizes, and quality that we create in the church. Print, in color, black and white, and all its forms, is still one of the primary and most important ways we communicate with people today and will be for some time. Almost everyone has access to this channel.
Channel #2: Digital
This channel is the latest tool we have to communicate the gospel message and we use it in PowerPoint® presentations, the internet, our website, email newsletters, cell phone and small screen communications, and anything else that makes up the newest, latest, and greatest communication technology. This channel is still emerging, developing in new systems and tools, and is expanding constantly. Not everyone has access to this channel and speed of adaptation varies tremendously with age and socioeconomic groups.
Channel #3: People
This communication channel is often easily forgotten, but it is probably the most important in any church communication program. You can have the most beautifully designed bulletin and the most complete and functional website imaginable, but if the folks at your welcome center ignore visitors and prefer to chat with each other, if the person answering the phone (assuming a real person can be reached) is having a really bad day and takes it out on all callers, or if the members of your congregation ignore visitors, the most beautiful and cutting edge communications, no matter if they are in print or digitally presented, will be useless. People are the church—the church throughout the ages is made up of people. Our people are always the primary message delivery tool of the gospel, accessible at all times to all people.
We are living in a time of great communication transition
We need to keep this transition time in mind as we consider the various channels of church communication. A few hundred years from now, things may settle down a bit and everyone will perhaps receive messages beamed wirelessly into their brain stem in a way that can be turned on and off with the blink of an eye, but right now we are in the midst of the biggest communication revolution in the history of humanity and this revolution floods us with communication options of every kind. In practical terms this means you need to learn and grow in all areas of communication.
That is what this site is about and to help you do that, here are some more resources that discuss multi-channel communication:
In your excitement over new communication channels please read: Never forget the people who don’t have access to the easily created channels